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FRANCE: Medal of Syria and Cilicia, 1918-1921


Ed_Haynes
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Hendrik raised the question of this one on another thread. I, too, find it challenging. Here is what I know.

Medal of Syria and Cilicia, 1918-1921

For those who participated in operations of the Army of the Levant between November 1918 and October 1921. In November 1919, French troops relieved British occupation troops in Lebanon and Cilicia. The operations were mainly against King Faisal ibn-Hussein?s troops and Turkish pressures from the north.

From November 1919 to July 1920 several batallions of the Third Division conducted operations were against armed bands of Faisal?s troops in the region of Tyre and Alexanderetta. On 21 July 1920, the French troops achieved victory over Faisal?s troops and drove him out of Syria into exile in London. This established French dominance in Syria. (Faisal would later be established by the British as "king" of Iraq.)

In Cilicia, the fight was more complex and difficult, in that the French Second and Fourth Divisions also faced entrenched Turkish troops in difficult terrain. With the capture of Ain Tab on 5 February 1921, French power was established in the region.

The medal was awarded to soldiers and sailors who served in action from 11 November 1918 to 20 October 1921. In 1932, the award was extended to civilian personnel.

Also awarded by the Vichy Government for the defensive actions against the British and Free French attacks on Syria in June-July 1941. As discussed below, the medal was awarded to Vichy troops for action against, among others, the Free French. The medal is the same as the Syria-Cilicia Medal, but reissued for these campaigns with a bar: ?Levant 1941?. Also awarded by the Free French Government in London for the actions against the Vichy French and others in the Levant from 12 July 1941 to 14 August 1943. The medal is the same as the Syria-Cilicia Medal (without clasp?).

With the addition of a bar, the same medal was reissued for operations in 1925-26 and 1941. Reissued for campaigns in the Levant 1925-26 with a bar: ?1925-1926?; awarded for Jebel Druze and the taking Soueida?

Established: Law of 18 July 1922, amended by laws of 12 September 1922 and of 13 December 1932, which extended awards to French civil personnel.

Obverse: Bronze 30 mm (also seen in 35 mm medals) circular medal. The head of the Republic and the inscription ?REPUBLIQUE FRANCAISE?. Suspended by a wreath and crescent.

Reverse: An arrangement of flags and cannon, arrayed to attack a hilltop fort. Inscription ?LEVANT?.

Ribbon: Alternating horizontal stripes of white and light blue.

Awards: As was true elsewhere, the famous L?gion ?trang?re, or Foreign Legion, was intimately involved in these actions; in 1922, a battalion of the 4e R?giment ?trang?re d?Infanterie was deployed to the Levant. 1925-26: The famous L?gion ?trang?re, or Foreign Legion (especially the 4e R?giment ?trang?re d?Infanterie [later, the R?giment de la L?gion du Proche Orient]), was intimately involved in these actions. 1940-41: As was true elsewhere the famous L?gion ?trang?re, or Foreign Legion, was intimately involved in these actions. Representing a particularly painful moment in the histoiry of the Legion, this service pitted the Vichy 6e R?gement ?trang?re d?Infanterie (later disbanded) against the Free French 13e Demi-Brigade L?gion ?trang?re.

-- medal

-- ?LEVANT? bulbous ornamental bronze bar of ?oriental? design (for 1918-21)

-- ?LEVANT / 1925-1926? - ornate bulbous bronze bar of ?oriental? style with inscription in Roman script in two lines

-- ?LEVANT 1925-1926 - ornate bulbous bronze bar of ?oriental? style with inscription in ornate script in a single line

-- ?LEVANT 1941? - a bulbous ornate bronze bar of ?oriental? design

Edited by Ed_Haynes
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Hello Ed,

Magnificent start of this thread with lots of useful information ! Thanks for that :cheers:

To continue on it, I would like to point out a few details :

In the short lifespan of this medal, it was officially known under three names :

the original "Commemorative Medal for Syria-Cilicia" as instituted by the French Republic in 1922,

the Vichy regime's "Commemorative Medal for the Levant" (1941) and

the Free French "Medal of the Levant" (1942).

The medal was awarded to soldiers and sailors who served in action from 11 November 1918 to 20 October 1921. ... But also to those who after that date participated in actions which are stipulated in later decrees. In fact, it can be said that such operations extended to approx. mid-1939 as the last such decree seems to be dated 16 October 1939.

I have the texts of the decrees detailing the operations for which the medal was awarded up till and including the decree of 28 April 1934. Anyone having a later decree, do give me a shout !!!

Also awarded by the Free French Government in London for the actions against the Vichy French and others in the Levant from 12 July 1941 to 14 August 1943. The medal is the same as the Syria-Cilicia Medal (without clasp?).

I'm afraid I have to disagree on this : to my knowledge the London medal was not for actions against the Vichy French but only for operations in the 12 July 1941 (the date the fighting officially ended !) to 14 August 1943 period (or for military personnel that had served for a minimum of 2 years in the region).

There was indeed no clasp for this "Medal of the Levant" ... at least not officially, more on that later.

With the addition of a bar, the same medal was reissued for operations in 1925-26 and 1941. Reissued for campaigns in the Levant 1925-26 with a bar: "1925-1926"; awarded for Jebel Druze and the taking Soueida?

Not as simple as that : some 30 operations/combat actions etc. are indicated in various decrees as being valid for entitlement to this bar which should officially read "LEVANT 1925-1926" ... Operations in the Djebel Druze are indeed amongst those but also those in other areas e.g. Damascus, Aleppo, "Grand Liban", the Euphrates region. Couln't find a reference to Soueida in those though.

Obverse: Bronze 30 mm (also seen in 35 mm medals) circular medal. The head of the Republic and the inscription "REPUBLIQUE FRANCAISE".

The official medal, as manufactured by the Paris Mint is 30 mm (different types exist but all have this diameter). The 36 mm one was manufactured by the private firm of Arthus-Bertrand, also in Paris. All show the engraver's name : Georges Lemaire at 7 o'clock.

Reverse: An arrangement of flags and cannon, arrayed to attack a hilltop fort. Inscription "LEVANT" around the top edge of the medal and "Honneur et Patrie / Syrie-Cilicie" (in 4 lines) on the frontmost of the flags. Engraver's initials at 5 o'clock.

-- "LEVANT" bulbous ornamental bronze bar of "oriental" design (for 1918-21) ... I've so far come across 11 different strikings of this one, including a silvered (!) oriental type and 2 silvered rectangular ones.

-- "LEVANT / 1925-1926" - ornate bulbous bronze bar of "oriental" style with inscription in Roman script in two lines ... I think you refer to the type made by the firm of Mourgeon, a gilded one with specific ornaments proper to this manufacturer and missing the "19" in "1926" ... and which in view of that should, I think, be considered as "unofficial".

[attachmentid=17343]

Above picture : one of at least two of the Mourgeon strikings : no maker's marks on this bar whereas there is one known with two maker's marks on it : a boar's head and "L*M", both referring to this manufacturer).

-- "LEVANT 1925-1926 - ornate bulbous bronze bar of "oriental" style with inscription in ornate script in a single line ... once again, this would be a gilded bar (so far I've knowledge of three strikings of this one, one being the Paris Mint type).

[attachmentid=17342]

This one looks like the Paris Mint type but it isn't one ... I have no clue as to who the manufacturer was. Anyone with a suggestion ?

-- "LEVANT 1941" - a bulbous ornate bronze bar of "oriental" design... Always silvered bronze, some with some without a hyphen between "LEVANT" and "1941"

It's obvious from the above that there may well be more strikings of this medal and its bars.

More to follow, I'm running out of space for attachments on this one as the pictures are rather "heavy" ... :unsure:

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Some more pictures of various strikings ...

[attachmentid=17353]

Silvered bronze bar made by Mourgeon

[attachmentid=17355]

Very likely from the Arthus-Bertrand firm ...

[attachmentid=17356]

Silvered bronze bar, rectangular, possibly made by Marie-Aubert

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[attachmentid=17364]

Paris Mint bar for the Vichy award, this one has the Mint's marking and "1" for sterling silver on the reverse. Note it's hyphenated ...

[attachmentid=17363]

Maker unknown, no hyphen, smaller font ... possibly the original strike for this bar ? Info is welcome !

[attachmentid=17361]

A rectangular one, has "BRONZE" on its wide suspension bar ... again, information is welcomed !

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Last one for today I think :P

In one of the previous I mentioned : There was indeed no clasp for this "Medal of the Levant" ... at least not officially, more on that later.

I was referring to the type made by the London firm of John Robert Gaunt who also made the medal for the Free French during WW2.

The medal is easily identified : it has a much darker colour, usually referred to as "chocolate", a much better detail, laurel branches on the suspension instead of the palm branches used by French manufacturers and "J.R.G." at 4 o'clock on the reverse. Also, the foremost flag does not have the "SYRIA CILICIA" text, only the "HONNEUR ET PATRIE" and there are - quite correctly - no references on this medal to Georges Lemaire as this one was engraved by the London firm itself.

[attachmentid=17367]

Although not officially created, the bar is of exactly the same colour and craftmanship as the medal and there can be little doubt that it was also manufactured by Gaunt at the time.

Definitely my favourite amongst all of them :love:

[attachmentid=17371]

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Nice one there Dave ! One of those cute unofficial ones due to the 1925 being in front. I've also come across (reliable) text references to a "LEVANT 1926-27" and "SYRIE-CILICIE" bar - if anyone has a picture of those ... feel free to post it !

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Hello,

Very interesting pieces and a great deal of (unknown) history presented in this thread. Hendrik has given a lection past saturday about this subject and i was impressed with what is possible on this medal (such a vaiety on bars, simply stunning :love: )

Keep it up guys and bomb us with such bars (and medals) iff you have them.

Cordial greetings,

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  • 6 years later...

Very interesting information guys, I am interested in the London made Gaunt version of the Leveant medal - I wonder if anyone can answer the following quastions..?

What metal is the Gaunt version made from - or metals..?

Are the medals all "swinging" versions - I have seen one cast in one piece ie with the medal and suspender connected - I wondered if this was a different version or a fake..?

Hope someone can help...Thanks in advance

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Coming off a low knowledge base ...

if this was a different version or a fake

Can we speak of "fake" French medals, when the official manufacturer, the Monnaie de Paris, continues to churn out insignia years after they were instituted - I even acquired the badge of a Companion of the Order of Liberation there in 2006!

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